Your 12-Step Program For An Awesome 2013

We’re fixing to make next year a 365-day string of awesomeness. Want to follow our lead? Here’s a list of 12 things you can do, starting the first day of January, to make next year your best one yet.
We’ll address the oldie but goodie resolutions — the perfect spot for cycling off those chocolate-covered cherries, for example — and we have some less-typical tips in the mix. Hint: one involves edible vegetable gardens, and another tells you how to find your way to a cloud forest. So, as the ball drops tonight, raise a glass of something sparkly, sister: Your 2013 is going to shine.
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Resolution: Take Your Vacation Days
Your vacation days exist for a reason. Need us to give you one? Taking days off refreshes you, so that you’re even better at your job when you get back. So, back away from the laptop for at least 15 days next year.

Execution: You can spend your days off getting pampered at a local spa, taking a road trip to Milwaukee, or — if you’re willing to get a little exotic — trekking through cloud forests. Introducing: the Shedd Aquarium’s new Shedd Adventures.

Designed for members of the aquarium (you can sign up here, though purchasing a travel package automatically makes you a member), the new program offers way-cool trips for nature lovers. The first adventure, which leaves from Chicago on January 26 and returns on Feburary 5, is a 12-day jaunt to Costa Rica. The itinerary’s jam-packed with snorkeling, scuba diving, and hiking through the aforementioned cloud forest, filled with exotic birds. (A bit more exciting than that to-do list on your desk, right?) Throughout the year, there will be outings to the Galapagos, Mexico, Churchill, and the Amazon. Pricing varies from $3,795 to $5,759 — plus the $5 cost of a big ol' bottle of sunscreen.

For reservations and information, contact Cheryl Mell at Shedd Aquarium, 312-692-3161, cmell@sheddaquarium.com


Photo: Courtesy of the Shedd Aquarium
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Resolution: Get Your Culture Fix
So, we’re agreed: you’re getting out of dodge at least once this year. But when you’re not on vacation, take advantage of your weekends by exploring the world-class city you currently live in Let’s start by diving into the Windy City’s art scene.

Execution: We’ve vowed to visit a local museum at least once a month next year, and we’re particularly giddy about one outing we’ve already planned. Being shameless Francophiles — and, in case you haven’t noticed, somewhat obsessed with fashion — we can’t wait to check out the “Impression, Fashion, and Modernity” exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago. On display from June 26 to September 22, the exhibit will offer a peek at more than 90 paintings from artists such as Degas, Renoir, and Monet.

Pastels and ballerinas aren’t your thing? Throughout the year, the museum will also host exhibits devoted to Irving Penn’s gritty close-ups and Kara Walker’s cut-paper silhouettes.

The Art Institute of Chicago, 11 South Michigan Avenue (at Adams Street); 312-443-3600


Photo: Courtesy of The Art Institute of Chicago
3 of 12
Resolution: Make Time for the Girls
Girlfriends are the best. Period. And though your busy life leaves you with a mile-long list of reasons to skip the socializing, friendship is the ultimate soul food. So, this year, pencil in plenty of ladie's nights.

Execution: Personally, we’re planning to round up our pals for some old-fashioned, girly bonding: readers, we’re getting manis next month. There’s any number of cute salons in the city, but our favorite spot to polish up is ZaZaZoo Nail Salon in Bucktown. The pink-and-white space reminds us of Barbie’s dream house (personal elevator included!) and manicures are only $15 a pop.

ZaZaZoo Nail Salon, 1842 North Damen Avenue (between Churchill Street and Moffat Street); 773-687-9717.


Photo: Courtesy of ZaZaZoo Nail Salon
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Resolution: Give Toxins the Boot — Er, Flush
You basically eat healthy, right? (Don’t worry, that s’mores sandwich you scarfed at Bel 50 doesn't count) Still, a little detox never hurt anyone, and a quick cleanse pairs beautifully with the whole “new year, new you” MO.

Execution: We’re kicking off the winter with a little juice love from In the Raw. Based in Highland Park — and, thankfully, able to deliver to the city — the organic, vegan, totally-delicious restaurant has a new detox program. With different menus designed for various types of dextox-ers, the program includes raw-food diets, all-juice detoxes, and a juice-and-raw-food combo. The cleanses last anywhere from three to seven days, and menu items include Blueberries and Cream blended juice, beet ravioli, and malted-chocolate tartes. Prices start at $65 a day, and the benefits, which include everything from burning fat to healing inflammation, are — say it with us now — priceless.

In the Raw, 483 Central Avenue (at Sheridan Road) in Highland Park; 847-432-9999.


Photo: Courtesy of In The Raw
5 of 12
Resolution: Get Thee to the Gym
It’s great to get your kiester to the gym whenever you can, but in order to see results, you’ve got to push past huffing on the treadmill for the first week of January. Next year, resolve to channel your inner gym rat, kick your workouts into high gear, and — oh yeah — keep going to the gym when January’s over.

Execution: On Your Mark, a multi-sport and personal training studio, has no juice bar, no spa, and no other things to distract you from getting your butt in shape.

It’s the trainers' personalized approach that has us hooked, offering nutrition counseling, performance- and-gait testing, and — most importantly — custom workouts that will show holiday pounds who’s boss. It’ll be tough, but we’re willing to sweat it out.

On Your Mark Bucktown, 1753 North Damen Avenue (at Willow Street); 773-292-9330.


Photo: Courtesy of On Your Mark
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Resolution: Treat Yo Self
Yes, we know we just advised fueling up on raw food and saying "peace out" to the couch-potato lifestyle. But, as with everything, moderation is key here. We're not advocating you become that chick who brings her own tupperware meal to dinner parties.

Execution: Personally, we don’t want to blow our reserved calories on stale Milky Way bars from the vending machine. So — aren’t we fancy — we’re going to learn how to bake our own treats at Give Me Some Sugar next year. With hot-pink and turquoise walls, the Roscoe Village cake-decorating studio is a pretty pizzazz-y place to bake. The studio's fun classes teach you how to whip up everything from French macaroons to edible vegetable gardens made with cake and fondant (How Pinterest-y!). Prices per class vary; check out the class listings for January and beyond.

Give Me Some Sugar, 2205 West Belmont Avenue (at Leavitt Street); 773-281-3154.


Photo: Courtesy of Give Me Some Sugar
7 of 12
Resolution: Whip Your Wardrobe Into Shape
Forgive us for being presumptive — maybe it’s just team pride talking — but we figure you’re pretty dang stylish if you read Refinery29. Still, everyone could use a little wardrobe boost from time to time, and we’d like to set a little sartorial challenge: Let’s all vow to make 2013 our most fashionable year yet.

Execution: Style is near and dear to our hearts, so we’re calling in the big guns on this one. CakeStyle is a Chicago-based service that makes shopping — and scoring killer duds — easy peasy. Here’s how it works: you sign up for the service online, then fill out a questionnaire that covers everything from measurements to favorite colors to designers you heart.

After filling out the extensive form, you’ll get hooked up with a local stylist who will scour store racks for clothing and accessories based on your own aesthetic. And, may we add, these ladies are game for anything. We requested looks that are “rocker-ballerina-meets-Jackie O.” and they didn’t even bat an eye.

A few days later, a box of new clothes and accessories show up at your door. You can take ten days to try things on, then keep what you want (they’ll charge your card) and send back what you don’t. No extra fees — even the shipping is free. Piece of cake, right?

CakeStyle, 866-324-6715 or hello@cakestyle.com


Photo: Courtesy of CakeStyle
8 of 12
Resolution: Put Your Best Face Forward
Quick, how old is your mascara? Yeah. We couldn’t tell you, either. If you’re anything like us, your makeup bag could use a little TLC — and someone needs to shake you of that gold eye-shadow habit (Unless you’re Nicki Minaj, in which case, carry on).

Execution: Makeup artist Jenny Patinkin owns Dollface Beauty School, and we like to think of her as our makeup therapist. Gentle, sweet, and aglow with perfect skin, she meets with clients in her Lincoln Park home and sorts through their cosmetic bags. She’ll toss anything expired, garish, or just wrong, and suggest specific replacements. She’ll do your makeup like you’ve never had makeup done before — we promise — then she’ll draw up a face chart so you can recreate the look at home. Face it: this is a service we could all benefit from.

Dollface Beauty School, Jenny@DollFaceBeautySchool.Com


Photo: Courtesy of Dollface Beauty School
9 of 12
Resolution: Young Lady, Clean Your Room!
We can’t threaten to take away your allowance if you don’t clean your room, but we can tell you that having a spic-and-span space feels great and improves your overall feeling of well-being. Think about it: How gross does it feel to plod around a cluttered, dusty space all day? Our point exactly.

Execution: In 2013, we’re stocking up on our favorite Mrs. Meyers cleaning products, pulling the broom out of the closet, and getting a slew of fresh sponges. Then, we’re calling on the ladies of Neat Method to help us get resolutely de-cluttered.

The local company is run by two blond beauties, Ashley Murphey and Molly Graves, who specialize in professional organization. They get the mess out of your mud room, make way for fluffy towels in your laundry room, and can even help you unpack and set up in a new home.

Their services are totally customized, too, so even if your massive antique spoon collection needs organizing, they’ve got a rack for that. First step: call the ladies up for a gratis consultation, and they’ll talk you through pricing and options from there.

Neat Method, 415-829-3186 or Ashley@NeatMethod.com
10 of 12
Resolution: Get Outside Your Comfort Zone
And, just after we told you to get your nest all cozy and clean, we’re going to suggest that you get out of it. In fact, get out of your comfort zone entirely in 2013. Trying new things makes you grow, helps you learn, and — frankly— it’s exciting! So channel your inner daredevil and commit to giving something wild a go next year.

Execution: Getting outside of your comfort zone can mean something as small as wearing red lipstick or setting up an online dating profile. But this year, we’re going big — or high, rather— by jumping out of an airplane at Chicagoland Skydiving Center. The Rochelle, Illinois facility offers tandem skydives for first-time jumpers; the cost is usually about $189. The place is billed as one of the safest places on earth to take the leap (phew). And perhaps most relieving of all: there’s an on-site bar you can hit up for a post-dive victory drink.

Chicagoland Skydiving Center, 1207 West Gurler Road (at Interstate 39) in Rochelle; 815-286-9200.


Photo: Courtesy of Chicagoland Skydiving Center
11 of 12
Resolution: Control Your Destiny (Or at Least Give it a Shot)
The future is unknown — but why not try to take a little peek? Whether it’s just for fun or you believe there’s something to all that new-age stargazing, have an astrological chart drawn up at the start of the year. Our prediction: you’ll take away some lessons, no matter what you believe.

Execution: Come January, plan on sitting down with Chris Petrakos, founder of Black Hat Astrology. We first learned about the local astrologer when we signed up for his weekly newsletter— who wouldn’t want horoscopes delivered alongside Diana Vreeland quotes?

Lucky for us, he can also give “year-ahead readings.” The $100 consultations are designed to give some insight on family, health, career — all that important stuff. Plus, Petrakos says that clients use the readings as “an opportunity to think about how to renew the best parts of themselves, and approach the time ahead with clarity, dedication, and energy.” Sounds pretty resolution-friendly to us.

Black Hat Astrology, chris.petrakos@gmail.com


Photographed by Elizabeth Weinberg
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Resolution: Spread a Little Love
We’ll all work on making ourselves a little healthier, happier, and more fearless next year, but facts are facts: you already rock. So give, give, give in 2013. We’ve saved the best resolution for last: Whether it’s bringing chicken soup to a sick friend or cutting a check for a cause you believe in, the most important thing you can do next year is do some good.

Execution: We’ve got a soft spot for kiddies, and we’re also pretty passionate about healthy eating. So a cause that really speaks to us is Common Threads, the local nonprofit founded by celebrity chef and all-around good-guy Art Smith.

The charity teaches underprivileged kids how to whip up healthy, affordable meals. Volunteers have meaningful and totally fun tasks like assisting wee ones in chef-led cooking classes, and helping out at culinary events.

Common Threads, 500 North Dearborn Avenue (at Illinois Street); 312-329-2501.


Photo: Courtesy of Common Threads
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